Friday, May 03, 2024

Launch: China Chang'e-6 Moon Sample Return Mission to Far Side South Pole

Launch: China Chang'e-6 Moon Sample Return Mission to Far Side South Pole

China successfully launched the Chang'e-6 lunar probe on Friday, May 3, 2024, to collect and return the first ever lunar samples from the far side of the moon. The probe, atop a Long March-5 Y8 carrier rocket, blasted off at 17:27 (Beijing time) from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China's Hainan Province, marking the start of its mission that will last about 53 days.

It follows in the footsteps of the country's first lunar sample return mission, Chang'e-5, which was launched in 2020 and brought back 1,731 grams of samples from the near side of the moon. The mission made China the third country to return samples from the Moon after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Chang'e-6 is set to land on the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, one of the three major lunar landforms with significant scientific value. Chang'e-6's pre-selected landing area is located in the southern part of the Apollo basin in the SPA basin (43°±2° south latitude, 154°±4° west longitude). The South Pole–Aitken basin is a large impact crater on the far side of the Moon. At roughly 2,500 km (1,600 mi) in diameter and between 6.2 and 8.2 km (3.9–5.1 mi) deep, it is the largest, oldest, and deepest basin recognized on the Moon.

The mission marks another milestone in China's lunar exploration program (CLEP). Back in 2019, the country's Chang'e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, becoming the first spacecraft to complete a soft-landing on the moon's uncharted side.

China is also advancing plans to complete its first manned space mission to the moon by 2030, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The Chang'e-6 mission features scientific payloads from countries that include France, Italy, Sweden, and Pakistan. The international scientific payloads carried by the Chang'e-6 mission include the French radon gas detector (CNES), the European Space Agency/Swedish ion analyzer, and the Italian laser corner reflector (Italian Space Agency), as well as the Pakistani ICUBE-Q cube satellite. 

Last month, the Queqiao-2 relay satellite was successfully deployed and put into orbit in order to facilitate communications between the far side of the moon and the Earth.

Video Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)

Duration: 2 minutes

Release Date: May 3, 2024

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